Virtua Tennis is back again for another year, this time adding support for both Kinect and PlayStation Move, although perhaps not in the way you think.
When loading up Virtua Tennis 4 for the first time I was honestly disappointed to learn that PlayStation Move and Kinect support is limited to exhibition matches and party games (the latter is Move only), therefore if you were planning to play through the whole campaign in motion, then prepare to be disappointed. On the bright side, motion support in both versions of the game is pretty terrible anyway, although it has to be said that PlayStation Move fares a lot better than Kinect does.
If motion control play is what you’re interested in, then either version of Virtua Tennis 4 will see you head straight to the Motion Play option. Within this menu there is the option to play an Exhibition Match, which allows for 1-2 player matches and Party games (Move only), which is essentially just two games consisting of Net Blitz and Mummy Attack. This lack of options may have been acceptable if the motion support was any good, however it isn’t.
Kinect is the worst culprit with your only involvement being to swing your hand to hit the ball, which would all be very well if the game actually did its job and mapped your movement with the on-screen action, alas it doesn’t. Instead you are just left with a bitter taste as you curse the screen as the ball flies past you for the umpteenth time.
PlayStation Move is at least a little better than Kinect, the game still controls your players movement, but you have something in your hand, meaning when you do connect with the ball it at least feels satisfying. There are occasions when the game still doesn’t recognise your movements, which is completely unacceptable, but at least it’s playable, which is more than can be said about the Kinect version.
So far, and so very disappointing. Thankfully Virtua Tennis 4 does have other strings to its racket, which is just as well really. World Tour mode is the main attraction for single players, here you fight your way through four seasons by creating a character using the in-game creation system and then begin your tour, trying to make a name for yourself and get up those ranks.
World Tour mode is a bit of a tennis fans dream really. You can take part in all manner of strange training activities to earn stars and build up your characters stats. While training does impact on your condition, meaning you may not be fighting fit for tournaments, it’s still essential to become more skilful and earn the reputation you need to allow entry to higher profile tournaments. Aside from training, characters can also take part in Exhibition matches, doubles matches, work at charity events, hire staff and buy any clothes which may have unlocked along the way. You can of course also take part in the all important tournaments. Although tournaments start off in a rather lowly setting, the longer your career progresses, the higher you will rise up the ranks, increasing your reputation and also allowing you to take on the big guns.
The tennis itself is as strong as ever, allowing you to play the game as the stars do. Throughout you will learn how to execute Top Spin shots, Slices, Lobs, Drop shots, Smashes and the all new Super Shot, which when your concentration gauge is full, allows you to pull off a powerful and practically unstoppable shot which is unique to each player. Anyone who has picked up a Virtua Tennis game before will certainly feel right at home, while those who haven’t will probably be able to get into the swing of things quite quickly.
Away from the World Tour mode, SEGA has also included an Arcade/Exhibition option. Arcade allows up to four players to take part in a series of matches against each other. Here you can play double matches with four players, or you can just go for singles and take turns if you wish. Arcade also allows you to set the number of games, sets and also tweak other rules such as deciding the winner in the event of a tie. Exhibition is just a one off quick match.
Party mode allows you to take to the court either for fun or practice. Here, you and your friends can take part in all manner of games such as Egg Collector, where you run around the court collecting chicks to deliver to the hen; Clay Shooting, where you hit a load of plates with your tennis ball and Wall Match, seeing you stand on a button to raise a wall and cause your opponent to lost when their shot rebounds out of the court of play. There are certainly plenty of party games for you to get to grips with, so this can be quite fun when playing with friends and at least offers some variety.
Finally, Virtua Tennis 4 brings us the Network Mode, a rather obvious and welcome inclusion for the game. Network Mode is the standard affair really, Ranked Matches and Player Matches are all present and correct. Ranked matches explain themselves, seeing your take on an opponent to try to raise your way up the SPT Online World Ranking. Player’s matches, while not improving your rank, do allow a bit more variety in that you can play in a Exhibition match and also party games against online opponents.
As far as presentation goes, Virtua Tennis 4 certainly delivers. The on-court action looks fantastic; with the action remaining fast paced and lag free. The action is also accompanied by a decent crowd atmosphere and all the grunting you would expect from a tennis match, which is especially noticeable when it’s two females playing against each other.
Virtua Tennis 4 does provide a decent game of tennis. The addition of the motion control support is a bit pointless in my opinion; however the rest of the game at least makes up for the shortfall in this respect. Overall, apart from super shots, nothing really feels that much different from last year’s game, which is probably a good thing as it was already a pretty decent game anyway.
You can order your copy of Virtua Tennis 4 here (PS3), here (Xbox 360) and here (Wii).